Actively Pursuing Spiritual Growth
It is difficult to keep on the narrow way when so many obstacles threaten our equilibrium at every turn. Things which would be minor blips on our radar a year ago can now bring us to deep frustration and even anger. For many of us, our day to day lives look remarkably different today than they did 6 months ago. I am sure like many of you the last 6 months have been fraught with struggles and perhaps a few missteps. For some of us, this time we are living through has tested our faith, our beliefs, and our positions on a myriad of topics.
We have watched the news cycle spin discord, we have seen family members disagree on sheltering in place, masks, and the online school versus the return to school model. Many of us have been broken because of our losses and the losses dear friends have faced. We have struggled with depression, anxiety, failing marriages and for some of us crisis after crisis. But, in all of this we cling to Jesus and He is where we find our hope. After all it is who we are, a people of hope. And yet, most of us at one point or another find ourselves struggling to put our hope into practice. How do we practice hope? What can we do to strengthen our resolve? How do we reflect the embodiment of Jesus in our daily lives and now amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic?
Where to Begin
Firstly, I believe we must recognize the need to put God first in all things. For me, I cannot expect to know the will of God while ignoring the character of God. God has given to me HIS word and HIS Son so I can embrace who God has created me to be. There are so many messages the world sends us each day on who the world thinks we are. Remember it is just noise, tune it out!
Seek the face of God and tune into that still small voice. John 10 reminds us we will recognize the shepherd when we know HIS voice. When the world goes crazy all around me, I can look to the word and find my identity in Christ. But I must know the word to combat the weight of the world. One thing I have found for myself is by utilizing the YouVersion app on my phone I am in the scriptures throughout my day. I find this application is instrumental in joining friends online with topical or historical Bible studies. I can use the YouVersion to listen to my favorite books of the Bible while folding laundry or doing the dishes.
Secondly, spending time with God teaches me to know HIM in an intimate way, a way in which I train myself to hear the still small voice and know the Holy Spirit is guiding and prompting me to live out the purpose God has intended for me. Pursuing a robust spiritual life not only requires the sacrifice of time it also requires a willing heart. If I approach my devotional time with God as a task to be checked off the to do list, my spiritual growth simply will not happen. If I come with a rushed and distracted attitude it will affect the way I present myself before my KING. A way to combat this challenge is to realize our time with God is essential.
We as Christ followers must deliberately carve out time with God. Dan Hazen has a specific place designated for time with God, Susanna Wesley used her apron, and Brother Lawrence, while peeling potatoes. “How can one be in a spirit of prayer, even while peeling potatoes? That is, how can a person commune with God, even while performing the most mundane tasks? His answer: practice – more specifically, the practice of the presence of God” (Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence).
When contemplating this blog this week I thought of the things which help me to pursue spiritual growth. I thought it might be useful to encourage you with HOPE. I consolidated a few tips to share with you how I pursue hope while developing my spiritual life.
H – Humility
- Come to God in humility. I ask HIM to show me where my struggles are and be prepared to hear HIM. And I know for me; I struggle with pride. I get smug when I know the right answer or when I receive my coveted gold star for some task which I have achieved. Humility allows God to meet me where I am and remind me of the calling He has placed on my life. Humility reminds me to give HIM all the glory. He is my everything and I must treat HIM as such. I do this by coming to the cross as I am poor in spirit. I focus on not necessarily my head knowledge but heart knowledge and in heart knowledge I grow.
- I am called to be obedient. This means handling my money well, my marriage, my relationships, my conflicts. I have a responsibility to be salt and light to the world. If I cannot make amends with my fellow Christians how can the world truly see what sets us as followers of Christ apart? Obedience is a strong word and yet Jesus does not ask us to do anything He did not already do. He is our redeemer, our savior, and the reason for our hope. I assess my motives and my heart intent to discern if I am growing through obedience.
- The importance of our Perseverance: Paul writes to the Philippians and encourages us to press forward. We as Christians can be motivated by these words “Brethren, I do not count myself to be apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We can get knocked down by life, we just cannot stay there for too long. Keeping our eyes and hearts on Jesus allows us to continue to grow in our faith journey. If we stop growing, we become apathetic and begin to rot.
- Moving towards Excellence: When I commit to bringing God the best of myself, my true and humble self I honor and glorify Him. While I can practice my spiritual discipline by setting reasonable and attainable goals, I must not lose sight of why I desire spiritual growth. I must recognize the key to moving forward toward being fully devoted to my spiritual growth is to grow spiritually and not for the accolades of others.
In addition, my perspective of seeking hope can be put into action just as simply as putting on my COAT. (nod to Senior Pastor Rick Thiessen)
- C – Community: We are created to be part of a community. If anything, this pandemic has taught me, is my deep need for fellowship. I encourage you to zoom into a small group or an e group. Living out our lives with fellow believers helps to develop our faith journey from mediocre or lacking to excellence. My small group relationships enrich my life and allow me to be authentic in both my wins and losses.
- O – Outreach: Ask yourself who can I bless? Is there an opportunity to mow your neighbor’s lawn while you’re taking care of your own yard? Can you bring groceries to someone housebound? What about meeting the needs of someone who isn’t in your inner circle? And especially during this pandemic. I personally know people who can benefit from the hands and feet experience of Jesus, and I’m sure you do too.
- A – Accountability: Who do you have in your life who will speak truth into the way you are living out your life? Who will tell you when you are spinning and need to be centered by God’s abundant grace? Who in your life can call you out on your behavior without the consequences of a broken relationship? Can you nurture friendships which will enrich your opportunities to mentor and be mentored? I think of Paul and Timothy and the valuable relationship which promoted Timothy’s spiritual growth.
- T – Transcendence: How are we living beyond ourselves? What are we as Kingdom people doing to put our hope into action? How are we leaving a mark on History which illustrates the hope we as the bride of Christ exemplify?
Deanna Braaten is one of the AC3 Elders. She is always available via email, phone, text, or her favorite- over a cup of tea. Her passion among many is to discuss (and put into practice) ways in which we can live out the Gospel.